A Single Shard

A Single Shard

by Linda Sue Park

Hardcover(Large Print)

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In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters' village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786243051
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 08/28/2002
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 175
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About the Author

Linda Sue Park is the author of the Newbery Medal book A Single Shard, many other novels, several picture books, and most recently a book of poetry: Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems). She lives in Rochester, New York, with her family, and is now a devoted fan of the New York Mets. For more infromation visit www.lspark.com.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Eh, Tree-ear! Have you hungered well today?" Crane-man called out as Tree-ear drew near the bridge.

The well-fed of the village greeted each other politely by saying, "Have you eaten well today?" Tree-ear and his friend turned the greeting inside out for their own little joke.

Tree-ear squeezed the bulging pouch that he wore at his waist. He had meant to hold back the good news, but the excitement spilled out of him. "Crane-man! A good thing that you greeted me so just now, for later today we will have to use the proper words!" He held the bag high. Tree-ear was delighted when Crane-man’s eyes widened in surprise. He knew that Crane-man would guess at once—only one thing could give a bag that kind of smooth fullness. Not carrot-tops or chicken bones, which protruded in odd lumps. No, the bag was filled with rice. Crane-man raised his walking crutch in a salute. "Come, my young friend! Tell me how you came by such a fortune—a tale worth hearing, no doubt!"

Tree-ear had been trotting along the road on his early-morning perusal of the village rubbish heaps. Ahead of him a man carried a heavy load on a jiggeh, an open-framed backpack made of branches. On the jiggeh was a large woven-straw container, the kind commonly used to carry rice.

Tree-ear knew that the rice must be from last year’s crop; in the fields surrounding the village this season’s rice had only just begun to grow. It would be many months before the rice was harvested and the poor allowed to glean the fallen grain from the bare fields. Only then would they taste the pure flavor of rice and feel its solid goodness in their bellies. Just looking at the straw box made water rush into Tree- ear’s mouth.

The man had paused in the road and hoisted the wooden jiggeh higher on his back, shifting the cumbersome weight. As Tree-ear stared, rice began to trickle out of a hole in the straw box. The trickle thickened and became a stream. Oblivious, the man continued on his way.

For a few short moments Tree-ear’s thoughts wrestled with one another. Tell him—quickly! Before he loses too much rice! No! Don’t say anything—you will be able to pick up the fallen rice after he rounds the bend . . .

Tree-ear made his decision. He waited until the man had reached the bend in the road, then ran to catch him.

"Honorable sir," Tree-ear said, panting and bowing. "As I walked behind you, I noticed that you are marking your path with rice!" The farmer turned and saw the trail of rice. A well-built man with a broad suntanned face, he pushed his straw hat back, scratched his head, and laughed ruefully. "Impatience," said the farmer. "I should have had this container woven with a double wall. But it would have taken more time. Now I pay for not waiting a bit longer." He struggled out of the jiggeh’s straps and inspected the container. He prodded the straw to close the gap but to no avail, so he threw his arms up in mock despair. Tree-ear grinned. He liked the farmer’s easygoing nature. "Fetch me a few leaves, boy," said the farmer. Tree-ear complied, and the man stuffed them into the container as a temporary patch.

The farmer squatted to don the jiggeh. As he started walking, he called over his shoulder. "Good deserves good, urchin. The rice on the ground is yours if you can be troubled to gather it." "Many thanks, kind sir!" Tree-ear bowed, very pleased with himself. He had made a lucky guess, and his waist pouch would soon be filled with rice.

Tree-ear had learned from Crane-man’s example. Foraging in the woods and rubbish heaps, gathering fallen grain-heads in the autumn—these were honorable ways to garner a meal, requiring time and work. But stealing and begging, Crane-man said, made a man no better than a dog.

"Work gives a man dignity, stealing takes it away," he often said.

Following Crane-man’s advice was not always easy for Tree-ear. Today, for example. Was it stealing, to wait as Tree-ear had for more rice to fall before alerting the man that his rice bag was leaking? Did a good deed balance a bad one? Tree-ear often pondered these kinds of questions, alone or in discussion with Crane-man.

"Such questions serve in two ways," Crane-man had explained. "They keep a man’s mind sharp—and his thoughts off his empty stomach." Now, as always, he seemed to know Tree-ear’s thoughts without hearing them spoken. "Tell me about this farmer," he said. "What kind of man was he?" Tree-ear considered the question for several moments, stirring his memory. At last, he answered, "One who lacks patience—he said it himself. He had not wanted to wait for a sturdier container to be built. And he could not bee bothered to pick up the fallen rice." Tree- ear paused. "But he laughed easily, even at himself." "If he were here now, and heard you tell of waiting a little longer before speaking, what do you think he would say or do?" "He would laugh," Tree-ear said, surprising himself with the speed of his response. Then, more slowly, "I think . . . he would not have minded." Crane-man nodded, satisfied. And Tree-ear thought of something his friend often said: Scholars read the great words of the world. But you and I must learn to read the world itself.

Tree-ear was so called after the mushroom that grew in wrinkled half- circles on dead or fallen tree trunks, emerging from the rotten wood without benefit of parent seed. A good name for an orphan, Crane-man said. If ever Tree-ear had had another name, he no longer remembered it, nor the family that might have named him so.

Tree-ear shared the space under the bridge with Crane-man—or rather, Crane-man shared it with him. After all, Crane-man had been there first, and would not be leaving anytime soon. The shriveled and twisted calf and foot he had been born with made sure of that.

Tree-ear knew the story of his friend’s name. "When they saw my leg at birth, it was thought I would not survive," Crane-man had said. "Then, as I went through life on one leg, it was said that I was like a crane. But besides standing on one leg, cranes are also a symbol of long life." True enough, Crane-man added. He had outlived all his family and, unable to work, had been forced to sell his possessions one by one, including, at last, the roof over his head. Thus it was that he had come to live under the bridge.

Once, a year or so earlier, Tree-ear had asked him how long he had lived there. Crane-man shook his head; he no longer remembered. But then he brightened and hobbled over to one side of the bridge, beckoning Tree-ear to join him.

"I do not remember how long I have been here," he said, "but I know how long you have." And he pointed upward, to the underside of the bridge. "I wonder that I have not shown you this before." On one of the slats was a series of deep scratches, as if made with a pointed stone. Tree-ear examined them, then shook his head at Crane- man. "So?" "One mark for each spring since you came here," Crane-man explained. "I kept count of your years, for I thought the time would come when you would like to know how old you are." Tree-ear looked again, this time with keen interest. There was a mark for each finger of both hands—ten marks in all. Crane-man answered before Tree-ear asked. "No, you have more than ten years," he said. "When you first came and I began making those marks, you were in perhaps your second year—already on two legs and able to talk." Tree-ear nodded. He knew the rest of the story already. Crane-man had learned but little from the man who had brought Tree-ear to the bridge. The man had been paid by a kindly monk in the city of Songdo to bring Tree-ear to the little seaside village of Ch’ulp’o. Tree-ear’s parents had died of fever, and the monk knew of an uncle in Ch’ulp’o. When the travelers arrived, the man discovered that the uncle no longer lived there, the house having been abandoned long before. He took Tree- ear to the temple on the mountainside, but the monks had been unable to take the boy in because fever raged there as well. The villagers told the man to take the child to the bridge, where Crane-man would care for him until the temple was free of sickness.

"And," Crane-man always said, "when a monk came to fetch you a few months later, you would not leave. You clung to my good leg like a monkey to a tree, not crying but not letting go, either! The monk went away. You stayed." When Tree-ear was younger, he had asked for the story often, as if hearing it over and over again might reveal something more—what his father’s trade had been, what his mother had looked like, where his uncle had gone—but there was never anything more. It no longer mattered. If there was more to having a home than Crane-man and the bridge, Tree-ear had neither knowledge nor need of it. Breakfast that morning was a feast—a bit of the rice boiled to a gruel in a castoff earthenware pot, served up in a bowl carved from a gourd. And Crane-man produced yet another surprise to add to the meal: two chicken leg-bones. No flesh remained on the arid bones, but the two friends cracked them open and worried away every scrap of marrow from inside.

Afterward, Tree-ear washed in the river and fetched a gourd of water for Crane-man, who never went into the river if he could help it; he hated getting his feet wet. Then Tree-ear set about tidying up the area under the bridge. He took care to keep the place neat, for he disliked having to clear a space to sleep at the tired end of the day.

Housekeeping complete, Tree-ear left his companion and set off back up the road. This time he did not zigzag between rubbish heaps but strode purposefully toward a small house set apart from the others at a curve in the road.

Tree-ear slowed as he neared the mud-and-wood structure. He tilted his head, listening, and grinned when the droning syllables of a song- chant reached his ears. The master potter Min was singing, which meant that it was a "throwing" day.

Min’s house backed onto the beginnings of the foothills and their brushy growth, which gave way to pine-wooded mountains beyond. Tree- ear swung wide of the house. Under the deep eaves at the back, Min kept his potter’s wheel. He was there now, his gray head bent over the wheel, chanting his wordless song.

Tree-ear made his way cautiously to his favorite spot, behind a paulownia tree whose low branches kept him hidden from view. He peeped through the leaves and caught his breath in delight. Min was just beginning a new pot.

Min threw a mass of clay the size of a cabbage onto the center of the wheel. He picked it up and threw it again, threw it several times. After one last throw he sat down and stared at the clay for a moment. Using his foot to spin the base of the wheel, he placed dampened hands on the sluggardly lump, and for the hundredth time Tree-ear watched the miracle.

In only a few moments the clay rose and fell, grew taller, then rounded down, until it curved into perfect symmetry. The spinning slowed. The chant, too, died out and became a mutter of words that Tree-ear could not hear.

Min sat up straight. He crossed his arms and leaned back a little, as if to see the vase from a distance. Turning the wheel slowly with his knee, he inspected the graceful shape for invisible faults. Then, "Pah!" He shook his head and in a single motion of disgust scooped up the clay and slapped it back onto the wheel, whereupon it collapsed into an oafish lump again, as if ashamed.

Tree-ear opened his mouth to let out his breath silently, only then realizing that he had been keeping it back. To his eyes the vase had been perfect, its width half its height, its curves like those of a flower petal. Why, he wondered, had Min found it unworthy? What had he seen that so displeased him?

Min never failed to reject his first attempt. Then he would repeat the whole process. This day Tree-ear was able to watch the clay rise and fall four times before Min was satisfied. Each of the four efforts had looked identical to Tree-ear, but something about the fourth pleased Min. He took a length of twine and slipped it deftly under the vase to release it from the wheel, then placed the vase carefully on a tray to dry.

As Tree-ear crept away, he counted the days on his fingers. He knew the potter’s routine well; it would be many days before another throwing day.

The village of Ch’ulp’o faced the sea, its back to the mountains and the river edging it like a neat seam. Its potters produced the delicate celadon ware that had achieved fame not only in Korea but as far away as the court of the Chinese emperor.

Ch’ulp’o had become an important village for ceramics by virtue of both its location and its soil. On the shore of the Western Sea, it had access both to the easiest sea route northward and to plentiful trade with China. And the clay from the village pits contained exactly the right amount of iron to produce the exquisite gray-green color of celadon so prized by collectors.

Tree-ear knew every potter in the village, but until recently he had known them only for their rubbish heaps. It was hard for him to believe that he had never taken the time to watch them at work before. In recent years the pottery from the village kilns had gained great favor among those wealthy enough to buy pieces as gifts for both the royal court and the Buddhist temples, and the potters had achieved new levels of prosperity. The pickings from their rubbish heaps had become richer in consequence, and for the first time Tree-ear was able to forget about his stomach for a few hours each day.

During those hours it was Min he chose to watch most closely. The other potters kept their wheels in small windowless shacks. But in the warm months Min preferred to work beneath the eaves behind his house, open to the breeze and the view of the mountains.

Working without walls meant that Min possessed great skill and the confidence to match it. Potters guarded their secrets jealously. A new shape for a teapot, a new inscribed design—these were things that the potters refused to reveal until a piece was ready to show to a buyer.

Min did not seem to care about such secrecy. It was as if he were saying, Go ahead, watch me. No matter—you will not be able to imitate my skill.

It was true, and it was also the main reason that Tree-ear loved watching Min. His work was the finest in the region, perhaps even in the whole country.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Park (Seesaw Girl) molds a moving tribute to perseverance and creativity in this finely etched novel set in mid-to-late 12th century Korea. . . Readers will not soon forget these characters or their sacrifices. Publishers Weekly, Starred

" Intrigues, danger and the same strong focus on doing what is right turn a simple story into a compelling read. . . Tree-ear's story conveys a time and place far away and long ago, but with a simplicity and immediacy that is both graceful and unpretentious. A timeless jewel." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers

Like Park's Seesaw Girl and the Kite Fighters, this book not only gives readers insight an unfamilar time and place, but it is also a great story.
School Library Journal, Starred

This quiet, but involving story draws readers into a very different time and place. Though the society has its own conventions, the hearts and minds and stomachs of the characters are not so far removed from those of people today. Readers will feel the hunger and cold that Tree-ear experiences, as well as his shame, fear, gratitude, and love. A well-crafted novel with an unusual setting.
Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

Park's story is alive with fascinating information about life and art in ancient Korea.
Horn Book Guide

A broken piece of pottery sets events in motion as an orphan struggles to pay off his debt to a master potter. This finely crafted novel brings 12th-century Korea and these indelible characters to life.
SLJ Best Books of the Year

null Children's Books: 100 Titles NYPL

null Booklist, Editor's Choice

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A Single Shard 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 168 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books i have read. :) fasinating, adults and childern can both enjoy this book. It was filled with adventure suspences and love. Everyone should try this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am ten and I loved it. It is full of daring and nerve and is slightly sad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a good book at first i thought that it woulfd be the most boring book ever but then i kept reading and it was good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First 50 pages are hard to get into, but the rest is amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We are reading this in PACT class. It is good so far !
masser23 More than 1 year ago
The characters were well developed and the story was unpredictable. The writing flowed nicely, easy to read & hard to put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Single Shard is a book about the character Tree-Ear an orphan raised by another character Crane-Man. The story really starts when the master potter Min is introduced to the story when Tree-Ear is caught admiring Min’s pottery and Min thought Tree-Ear was stealing. Tree-Ear is so frightened that he bumps into a shelf and knocks down some pottery and breaks it. Min makes Tree-Ear work for him for nine days to work off the broken pot but those nine days end up turning into 18 months. Almost a year after Tree-Ear had been working for Min the Emissary Kim comes to look for a skilled potter to make pottery for the king. But when Kim comes Min’s pottery is not ready so Min sends Tree-Ear to Songdo to show Emissary Kim his pottery. On Tree-Ear’s journey he encounters many problems such as terrain, animals, and weather. And the worst thing that happened was that Tree-Ear was ambushed by bandits and the pots are destroyed and he was left with one shard. Tree-Ear is to determined and still takes the shard to Emissary Kim and shows how the pot was made and it paid off because Kim said that Man was now making pottery for the king. Tree-Ear is sent back to Ch’ulp’o by ship and Min and Ajima make Tree-Ear their son because Crane-Man died by falling off a bridge and Min also teaches Tree-Ear how to make a pot. I rate A Single Shard a solid 3 out of 5 stars. My reasoning is that in the beginning it is very hard to figure out who is who and is relatively confusing. And that some of the characters backstories are confusing as well. And that there is no really big climax in the story. One thing that I really liked about the story though was that the descriptions of the characters and the environment around them was amazing and I could easily picture it in my mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not so sure if I like this book, because it doesn't really have enough action maybe in some parts but not enough for my liking. Also I am not sure if I woulf have picked to read this. Some like it and some don' t, but not everybody that picks it up and reads it will indeed like the book or the thought of content. Not that its bad but like how the srory goes along. For me it went too slow for me to even want to pick it up, but thats just me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book took a while in the intro, but once into the middle of the book, it got exciting! I really liked Crane Man. He is very wise and funny at the same time. :)
trudy moss More than 1 year ago
We are reading this is the 6th grade class pretty good:))
Guest More than 1 year ago
THe best book published! Really! You Have to read it . Honestly, it was great!!! (don't judge the book by its cover, if you do that, I gurentee you'll put it back on the shelf). READ IT!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly amazing! Great book for students.
kikotomo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful story about a young orphan who finds his place in the workshop of an old and unhappy, yet talented potter.
joririchardson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating culture, lovable characters, excellent plot, and dramatic twists... This book is amazing! It makes you laugh and cry. It is written for middle-school aged kids, but I still re-read it every few years and always enjoy it just as much. This is one of my favorite children's fiction books ever.Without doubt, Linda Sue Park's best work.Recommended!!
mburris1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Single Shard is a touching book about Tree Ear, an orphan in Korea who has become fascinated with the work of a local potter. Through an unfortunate accident, Tree Ear gets an opportunity to work for the potter, giving him more time to observe his work. Later, Tree Ear is sent on an important mission that will ultimately change his life.This book is beautifully written, and contains many teachable moments as Tree Ear struggles with issues about values, integrity, perseverance, etc. guided by his friend, a crippled man who has cared for Tree Ear since he was a baby. The book offers opportunities for discussions and debate, as well as extensions to learn about the process of Korean pottery-making and Celedon glazing. Well-written characters and well-balanced plot make this an excellent read for Middle School-age children.
Mparis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tree Ear is an orphan who lives in a village where many make their living making pottery in 12th century Korea. Crane Man is an old man who takes him in as a toddler to raise him under a bridge. The two have to forage through garbage to get food to eat. Tree Ear is fascinated by a local potter named Min, and goes to work for him to repay him after breaking some of his pottery on accident. Tree Ear continues to works with Min and helps him to get a royal commission. While on his long trip to try to gain the commission, he is met up by bandits who destroy the pottery and he is left with a single shard to sell Min's wares. Although he ends up losing his dear father figure, he ends up as part of a loving family in the end.I loved this book. The history of Korea and pottery was fascinating. It also had amazing heart. I would recommend this to a reader of any age. Classroom connection: Korea, pottery, family
slevip82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this story. The characters are unforgettable.
lhanes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
THe book tells the story of an orphaned who lives in Korea, with his friend, under a bridge. His dream is to become a maker of pottery like many in his community and loves the uniqueness of it all. THru perserverance and attitude he acheives his goal and becomes a potter. This book tells of a simple rags to riches storry about how someone with nothing can still become something.In the classromm setting, i would definetely use this as an inlet to get the kids talking and discussing what they might like to be when they age up. Even go as far fetched as talking about what their father watnted to do compared to what they ended up doing and possibly why. THis book tells of a good lesson of self esteem and perseverance.
bookcat27 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tree-ear is an orphan in the 12th century. He lives under a bridge with Crane-man. Because he is an orphan and has no family, he is shunned by the people of the village. He lives on scraps of food but is slowly starving to death. One day he sees Min, a master potter, at work and marvels at the beautiful pottery. Tree-ear sneaks into Min's workshop and accidentally breaks a pot. Now he must work for Min to pay him back for the broken pot. The two slowly come to realize that they need each other. Then one day Tree-tea is given an important assignment: deliver a pot to the King's Court. During this journey he is attacked and the pot shatters on the ground. Tree-tea manages to find a single shard that shows the beauty of Min's design. Will it be enough to show the King how deserving Min is of becoming the King's official potter?This is such a wonderfully written book. The subject of Korea and it's pottery which flourished in the 11th and 12th century. It was even considered better than pottery from China! Linda Sue Park has combined several elements, family and adventure, into a story that educates as well as entertains us.
JanaRose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The twelfth-century Korean village of Ch¿ulp¿o is famous for its celadon pottery. Tree-ear, a young orphan, spends his days foraging for food on the fringes of society. The book opens with Tree-ear living under a bridge with Crane-man, a lame man who has cared for him most of his life. While foraging for food around the village, Tree-ear begins to watch Min, a master potter as he throws clay. Through his determination and desire to learn, Tree-ear apprentices himself to Min and begins the difficult task of satisfying the perfectionist, Min. Richly detailed, the book is a wonderful portrait of life in Korea and a tale of strength and determination. Tree-ear, in spite of his poverty and hunger, throws himself into learning with will and determination.
ykolstad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a beautifully written story. It's amazing how Linda Sue Park conveys the spirits of her mostly male characters.I learned much about a time and place that I wasn't familiar with before. One roots for little Tree-Ear as he never gives up on his dream. I was sad when it ended (because I enjoyed it so much), but oh what an uplifting ending it is.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tree Ear is an orphan, living under a bridge with a homeless man called Crane Man. After breaking on of Potter Min's pots by accident, Tree Ear agrees to go work for the potter, hoping to learn the trade himself.
fullerl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tree-Ear is an orphan who, with the help of a fatherly friend named Crane-Man, scrape out a living rummaging through trash heaps and learning to read the world around them. Tree-Ear is a resourceful and optimistic young man with an eye for something of beauty - pottery. Growing up in 12th century Korea, Tree-Ear knows the value of the art of pottery making. He loves to watch a local potter, Min, create his pieces of art. When he thinks no one is around, Tree-Ear decides to examine the pottery up close. When the potter suddenly returns and surprises Tree-Ear, one of the pieces if broken. To pay for the loss to the potter, Tree-Ear agrees to work for Min. Thus begins an unusual relationship between servant and master. Tree-Ear is a faithful worker and soon learns his tasks. Through a series of events, Tree-Ear ends up on the road to the capital to take a sample of a new piece of pottery for the inspection of the emissary with the hopes of receiving a royal commission. Unfortunately, things do not go well for Tree-Ear and all he left with to show at the royal court is a single shard of pottery, all that is left of Min's fine work. This story is rich with cultural and historical information and adds depth for the reader. Within its pages, this novel the ideas of what makes us who we are, the difficulties of pride, and what makes a family.
StephJoan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My girls and I listened to this in the car. One day we were running errands and when we got to the parking lot of the store, we sat there in the car unable to get out because we were so sucked into the story.